A reasonable question we might have for James is, “What does it look like to accept the word, especially if it’s already in us?” Well, it starts with a dose of truth serum. James dives right in to warn us about self-deception. He knows full well how easy it is for us to know what to do but to choose not to do it, especially if it's uncomfortable for us. He likens listening to the word and not doing it to looking in the mirror, seeing our face, and walking away to forget what we look like. This would actually require some effort on our part to forget what we look like! It suggests more of a glancing in the mirror rather than looking. When we glance, we don’t have enough time to really see, to assess what we see, and to act accordingly. I don’t know about you, but I tend to only glance at things I consider unimportant or that I want to avoid. Few of us likely consider the look of our faces unimportant, but we may want to avoid seeing what will require effort and discipline and consideration on our part. It’s a great analogy because looking intently at scripture will require very different actions from us than will merely glancing.
When we take the time to study the Word, it calls us to both belief and action. If we say we believe and listen to the Word but we don't do anything with what we hear, it’s no better than a cursory glance that effects no change in how we live. We haven’t invested ourselves in seeing. We haven’t chosen the freedom of submission to God. And according to James, this is the same as blocking our own blessings. Why would we choose not to do the very thing that will bless us? Likely this is because our cursory glancing deceives us into thinking that God’s law is limiting. The truth is that God’s law frees us to use not only our words to bless and to be blessed but also to use our hands and our very lives to serve those in need.
Lord, grant me the courage to look long enough into your Word to be convicted in love toward acting justly in the world. Amen.
The poetry of Song of Solomon is thick with romantic imagery, and most scholars agree that these lines mean what they say on the surface; they are written from the author to the beloved. Psalm 45 echoes the refrain of admiration and desire. Such desire is not wrong if it is awakened at the proper time, as the author of Song of Solomon says elsewhere. James argues that ethical living is done not in word but in deed. True religion is not putting on a show but displaying mercy and controlling the tongue. In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus rebukes some of the religious leaders on this very account because they talk of obedience to God but do not live it out. What we say and what we do should match.
Read Song of Solomon 2:8-13. The narrative poetry of Song of Solomon invites us into scripture in a different way than other texts. How does God speak to you through this poetry?
Read Psalm 45:1-2, 6-9. How do your relationships honor the gift of love?
Read James 1:17-27. When do you find yourself as merely a “hearer” of the word and not a “doer”? What motivates you to act on God’s word?
Read Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23. What human traditions or rituals do you tend to make too important?
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